This Week in Car Buying: Buick Enclave tops deal list; Toyota looks to online sales; Inventories shrink; Loan balances rise
Running counter to the current hot market for crossover SUVs, the 2015 Buick Enclave tops Kelley Blue Book's Top 10 deals for August. The Enclave, which is due for a makeover next year, is being offered on a $317 per month, 39-month lease with $1,817 up front.
"August is a great time to snag a deal on a new 2015 model-year car, as dealers are clearing their lots during this summer sell-down period making way for the new 2016 model-year inventory," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for KBB.com. "Topping the list is a curvaceous three-row SUV with a plush interior and room for gear."
A number of models near the end of their lifecycles or due for a refresh in 2016 are also on the list including the 2015 Lexus GS, which has a $409 monthly lease for 36 months and $2,499 down; the 2015 VW Passat, which retails for $27,915, has $1,000 cash back and 0-percent financing for 5 years; and the 2015 VW Tiguan, which has a $179-month lease for 36 months and $2,499 down.
Ford's aging Taurus, which Automotive News reports this week may be nearing the end of its long run, features $5,000 cash back on 2015 models. KBB estimates a Fair Purchase Price (FPP) of $28,204 for that model. The 2015 Toyota Venza, which will be discontinued at the end of the model year, has a $2,000 rebate with 0-percent financing for 5 years on a FPP of $27,901.
Newer vehicles, like the 2015 Cadillac ATS, the 2015 Elantra Value Edition and the 2015 Kia Forte also hit the top 10 list. The Cadillac offers a 3-year lease at $269 a month with $2,659 up front. Both the Elantra and the Forte have $1,500 back with the Kia offering the additional spiff of 0-percent financing for 60 months. Finally, the 2015 Chevy Spark EV has a no-money-down/$138-per-month lease for 39 months.
Toyota's online sales push
An online shopping program launched by the youth-oriented Scion brand will soon be making its way to the more mainstream Toyota division, a top executive told Automotive News. The program, called Pure Process Plus allows a shopper to go online to specify a vehicle, search dealer inventories, obtain a price, get an estimate on trade-in and get a certificate with all these details that is honored at a dealership.
The pilot program is being tested at 60 Scion dealerships with another 30 expected to be added by year's end. Bill Fay, Toyota's general manager, said a similar program is set for launch at Toyota stores over the next six to 12 months.
While large dealer groups like AutoNation and Sonic are doing similar on-line programs, Fay said the idea of the manufacturer-run portal is an effort to adapt to changing consumer shopping patterns with the goal of reducing the time it takes to negotiate and complete a deal. "Millennials are starting to express the fact that they'd like to do more shopping online," Fay told the trade paper. "They'd like to connect that shopping to a buying experience...that needs to be quicker and more transparent."
Hot sales combined with scheduled summer plant shutdowns in preparation for the new model year allowed manufacturers to trim their inventory levels during July. According to Automotive News, the number of vehicles in dealer lots would take 59 days to move at current sales rates, down two days from a month earlier numbers as well as from year ago levels. The industry considers a 60-day supply of vehicles to be ideal.
The lowest inventory levels are again at Subaru, which has 20 days' supply on hand, followed closely by Land Rover Jaguar at 22. Fiat continues to carry the most inventory with a 166-day supply. By maker, Mitsubishi has the largest stock, with 96 days', followed by Fiat Chrysler at 82 and VW group at 76. Individual models with high inventory levels include the Fiat 500X (188), Fiat 500L (183), Cadillac ATS (154 days) and Acura ILX (153).
Loan balances grow
A report by Experian Automotive indicates that outstanding loan balances grew by $92 million in the second quarter of 2015 over year earlier levels, the largest dollar value increase since 2006. Loans carried by car buyers hit a record high $932 billion this year, up from $840 billion. However, this increasing indebtedness is offset by the fact that the loans are showing increased stability with the 30-day delinquency rate dropping to its lowest level in five years, clocking in at 2.32 percent, down .05 percent year-over-year. The 60-day delinquency is up slightly to 0.607 percent from 0.603.
"The automotive loan market is working the way it's supposed to, with loans being made, vehicles purchased and payments made on time," said Melinda Zabritski, Experian's senior director of automotive finance, adding that the loans are "gaining momentum while maintaining remarkable stability. It's a good sign for the economy overall."
Backup camera in your future?
A snap poll conducted on KBB.com showed that 59-percent of respondents want a back-up camera on their next vehicle. The only other feature scoring higher was AM/FM stereo at 67 percent. Close behind the camera was remote keyless entry at 53 percent followed by Bluetooth connectivity at 47 percent. Interestingly, the bottom three items were entertainment systems (7 percent), internet/email capability (8 percent) and automatic parallel parking (8 percent).
After adding a Sport Touring edition of the Buick Encore, GM's premium division is adding a similar trim level to the 2016 Buick Lacrosse, Regal and Verano. Slotted between the 1SL and Premium packages, the ST trim level includes 18-inch wheels, a rear decklid spoiler and access to Apple CarPlay.
Final pricing for the redesigned 2016 Toyota Tacoma has been released with base prices starting at $25,385 for the rear-drive SR5 Access Cab equipped with a 4-cylinder engine. The top V6 SR Double Cab with 4-wheel drive starts at $28,915. Pricing excludes a $900 delivery fee.
While there is a lease deal on the 2015 model, the 2016 Lexus GS benefits from a significant upgrade this fall, boasting a redesigned nose and a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder base engine making 241 horsepower. That model, the GS200t is rear-drive only.